Today, on the feast of Saints Simon and Jude, my thoughts keep straying to memories of a certain journey of body and spirit, made around this time a few years ago. Moments flicker across the mind like leaves on a wind. Scraping ice from tent-poles in the morning, hands numb and blue with cold. A roadside pear tree whose frost-sweetened fruit tasted better than anything before or since. Washing my hair in a church hall, in a park bathroom, in a stranger's home (they lent us towels). Not washing my hair for six days straight, which has to be the grimiest I've ever felt. Easing my boots off at night to find my feet had chafed and bled right through the wool socks beneath. The beautiful repetition of the Psalms, read aloud by the side of the road, in a tent, by flashlight in a darkened church. Lunching on a packet of smoked fish someone gave us, which seemed, at the time, a gift fit for kings, since our last few meals had consisted mostly of stale cookies. One horrible, seemingly endless night when we got lost and wandered for hours in the dark and rain, ponchos streaming, boots squelching nastily with every step. Bickering, impatience, despondency, failure. And time and time and time again, at the end of the day, collapsing in front of our precious Lord in another tabernacle in another church, begging healing from the day's falls and the grace to go on again.
One of the stupidest and best things I've ever done. Somehow today I was stirred with a longing to be back on that road, even at its most difficult. Then I remembered: I am. I've never left it. The road goes ever on and on. Where does it go next, Lord? I'm ready.
"I fear in the dark and the doubt of my journey,
But courage will come with the sound of Your steps by my side,
And with all of my brothers You saved by Your cross,
I'll sing to Your joy at the end of the journey."